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Mushrooms and Cancer

March 21, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

According to the US National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that more than 186,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer (PC) this year alone. As many as 29,000 of those very same men will lose their lives because of this dreaded affliction that occurs almost exclusively in men over the age of 45.

Modern science is working feverishly to come up with new and innovative ways to treat this deadly disease without causing serious side effects for those who survive the battle. But until the day comes when such treatment is effective, safe and widely available we should continue to simultaneously focus our efforts on preventing PC in the first place.

According to new research published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, white button mushrooms may aid men in combating prostate cancer. The scientists who made this discovery also recently found that the same fungi mitigate the spread of breast cancer cells. Since both of these cancers are hormonally driven, such an association is not without some basis.

Medicinal MushroomsAnother reason why white button mushrooms were tested is because they’re widely available, edible and they contain a relatively rare fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been shown to possess cancer fighting properties when it’s derived from other sources – usually safflower or sunflower oil.

In this study, an extract of white button mushrooms was tested in a laboratory setting against prostate cancer cells and in mice that were injected with PC.

Two types of prostate cancer cells were treated with varying quantities of white button mushroom extract: a) hormone-dependent PC cells and, b) hormone-independent PC cells. The dependent PC cells require sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone to grow and spread. The independent PC cells do not require hormonal assistance.

Both types of PC cells were dramatically reduced when combined with the mushroom extracts. It was found that the larger dosage of mushroom extract provoked a greater amount of cancer cell death. This tells us that the white buttons work in a dose-dependent manner.

The mice with prostate cancer showed a similar reaction. Two groups of mice with PC were either given the white button extract or were left untreated. Those receiving the mushrooms exhibited a 68% reduction in tumor size. Further analysis revealed that the extract slowed the spread of the cancer cells and instigated a process called apoptosis, a process whereby specific cells (cancer cells in this instance) are selectively wiped out.

Shiuan Chen, the lead researcher in the study explained his take on these findings. “I think mushrooms, and especially medicinal mushrooms, are being used to prevent cancer because they potentially have the ability to affect immune function in our bodies.”

Dr. Chen, a professor at the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope, also relayed hopeful news with regard to human-based studies. He mentioned that trials are currently underway (at the City of Hope) with prostate cancer patients who haven’t responded to more conventional treatments, such as hormone therapy and surgery.

That’s not the only good news about mushrooms and prostate health. Two other recent experiments found promising results with regard to relieving the symptoms of prostate enlargement and in the use of integrative medicine against PC.

Study #1 – Reishi vs. Urinary Problems

Research recently presented in Japan has discovered that a type of mushroom called reishi can help reduce urinary issues relating to an enlarged prostate. In that study, a group of middle-aged men with “lower urinary tract symptoms” found a modest improvement in the overall urinary prostate symptoms while taking a reishi extract.

Maitake D-Fraction

Study #2 – Maitake vs Prostate Cancer

A combination of immunotherapy (to support the immune system) and an extract of the maitake mushroom demonstrated a powerful reduction (65%) in PC cell growth. The authors of the study noted a synergistic effect when the two treatments were combined. The combination of the two was more powerful than either one used on its own.

It’s not difficult to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into our daily menus. Here’s one example of a healthful side dish that may help keep breasts and prostates in tip top shape.

According to many mycologists (mushroom experts) brewing mushrooms in a tea form or including them in broths and soups may be the best way to derive the maximum benefit from them. There is a tough substance in mushrooms called chitin, which appears to trap many of the medicinal components held within the fungi. Brewing or simmering the mushrooms allows for the release of the therapeutic components into soups or teas.

The potential of mushrooms in the field of cancer research certainly looks promising. But we can look beyond that and consider the possible role that they may play in supporting our immune systems in far less threatening situations, such as averting the common cold or seasonal flus. The upside is that mushrooms can be easily and tastefully incorporated into the busiest of lifestyles. All it takes is ordering a mushroom side dish the next time you go out for dinner or brewing a cup of green tea with added mushrooms in the pot.

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition

9 Comments & Updates to “Mushrooms and Cancer”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    A few months back I ordered a pound of dried reishi mushrooms with the intention of eating them. They taste awful, extremely bitter. I started adding a piece of reishi to my green tea which I make my hot cocoa from. Cocoa is already bitter and can be sweetened with stevia. The reishi can be used several times before the ‘goody’ is extracted.

  2. JP Says:

    That sounds like a very powerful drink, Iggy. Cocoa, green tea and reishi. Now that’s one health promoting trio!

    Be well!


  3. Belen Tanghal Says:

    My Dad has been diagnosed with stage 2b lung cancer last summer of 2009. He was 81 years and had quit smoking 47 years ago. He underwent radiation therapy. He was hospitalized twice because of immunocompromised pneumonia so he opted not to continue with radiation. He has been taking reishi mushroom supplements instead. He went back to his doctor for x-ray and his doctor said the tumor in his lungs didn’t grow; its size is the same as it was first discovered. I have been taking the same reishi supplements myself since 2004.

  4. JP Says:

    That’s wonderful news, Belen! Thank you for sharing it with us! 🙂

    I sincerely hope your father’s health continues to stay strong and that the reishi protects you throughout your lifetime!

    Be well!


  5. Kelsey Says:

    Hey JP.

    Where did you get the figure titled “Effects of Maitake D-Fraction on Cancer Patients.” I’m stoked on this post and would like to read more about it.

  6. JP Says:


    Unfortunately, I don’t recall exactly where we got the image. But I’ll provide you with additional links about maitake and cancer that contain similar information and beyond:




    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: A great review about the health benefits of edible mushrooms …

    Full Text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/

    Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. doi: 10.1155/2015/376387. Epub 2015 Jan 20.
    Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life.

    Mushrooms have been consumed since earliest history; ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle, and the Romans perceived them as the “Food of the Gods.” For centuries, the Chinese culture has treasured mushrooms as a health food, an “elixir of life.” They have been part of the human culture for thousands of years and have considerable interest in the most important civilizations in history because of their sensory characteristics; they have been recognized for their attractive culinary attributes. Nowadays, mushrooms are popular valuable foods because they are low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium: also, they are cholesterol-free. Besides, mushrooms provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, proteins, and fiber. All together with a long history as food source, mushrooms are important for their healing capacities and properties in traditional medicine. It has reported beneficial effects for health and treatment of some diseases. Many nutraceutical properties are described in mushrooms, such as prevention or treatment of Parkinson, Alzheimer, hypertension, and high risk of stroke. They are also utilized to reduce the likelihood of cancer invasion and metastasis due to antitumoral attributes. Mushrooms act as antibacterial, immune system enhancer and cholesterol lowering agents; additionally, they are important sources of bioactive compounds. As a result of these properties, some mushroom extracts are used to promote human health and are found as dietary supplements.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update: Mushrooms may aid blood sugar management …


    Hypoglycaemic Activity of Culinary Pleurotus ostreatus and P. cystidiosus Mushrooms in Healthy Volunteers and Type 2 Diabetic Patients on Diet Control and the Possible Mechanisms of Action

    This study determined the oral hypoglycaemic effect of suspensions of freeze dried and powdered (SFDP) Pleurotus ostreatus (P.o) and Pleurotus cystidiosus (P.c), using healthy human volunteers and Type 2 diabetic patients on diet control at a dose of 50 mg/kg/body weight, followed by a glucose load. The possible hypoglycaemic mechanisms were evaluated using rats, by examining intestinal glucose absorption and serum levels of insulin, glucokinase (GK) and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK). The P.o and P.c showed a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in fasting and postprandial serum glucose levels of healthy volunteers and reduced the postprandial serum glucose levels and increased the serum insulin levels (P < 0.05) of Type 2 diabetic patients. The P.o and P.c increased the intestinal absorption of glucose but simultaneously reduced the serum glucose levels (P < 0.05) in rats. Both mushrooms reduced the serum GSK and promoted insulin secretion while P.c increased serum GK (P < 0.05). The hypoglycaemic activity of P.o and P.c makes mushrooms beneficial functional foods in diabetes mellitus. The mechanism of hypoglycaemic activity of P.o and P.c is possibly by increasing GK activity and promoting insulin secretion and thereby increasing the utilization of glucose by peripheral tissues, inhibiting GSK and promoting glycogen synthesis. Be well! JP

  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    Cancer. 2015 May 18.

    A phase I trial of mushroom powder in patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: Roles of cytokines and myeloid-derived suppressor cells for Agaricus bisporus-induced prostate-specific antigen responses.

    BACKGROUND: Each year in the United States, nearly 50,000 prostate cancer patients exhibit a rise in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate disease recurrence. For patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer, we evaluated the effects of white button mushroom (WBM) powder on serum PSA levels and determined the tolerability and biological activity of WBM.

    METHODS: Patients with continuously rising PSA levels were enrolled in the study. Dose escalation was conducted in cohorts of 6; this ensured that no more than 1 patient per cohort experienced dose-limiting toxicity (DLT). The primary objective was to evaluate treatment feasibility and associated toxicity. The secondary objectives were to determine WBM’s effect on serum PSA/androgen levels; myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs); and cytokine levels.

    RESULTS: Thirty-six patients were treated; no DLTs were encountered. The overall PSA response rate was 11%. Two patients receiving 8 and 14 g/d demonstrated complete response (CR): their PSA declined to undetectable levels that continued for 49 and 30 months. Two patients who received 8 and 12 g/d experienced partial response (PR). After 3 months of therapy, 13 (36%) patients experienced some PSA decrease below baseline. Patients with CR and PR demonstrated higher levels of baseline interleukin-15 than nonresponders; for this group, we observed therapy-associated declines in MDSCs.

    CONCLUSIONS: Therapy with WBM appears to both impact PSA levels and modulate the biology of biochemically recurrent prostate cancer by decreasing immunosuppressive factors.

    Be well!


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